The Physical Activity Vital Sign

  • On average, how many days per week do you engage in moderate or greater physical activity (like a brisk walk) lasting at least 10 minutes?
  • On those days, how many minutes do you engage in activity at this level?
  • Combine the two measures to arrive at an average minutes per week of activity.

    A small amount of activity is better than none but if your patient is not achieving at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, then they should be given brief intervention to increase their level of activity. Some people do a mixture of moderate-intensity and vigorous intensity activity in a week. The ‘rule of thumb’ is that 1 minute of vigorous intensity activity counts the same as 2 minutes of moderate intensity activity. 1

    How much health benefit your patient receives depends on the how much they do:

     Activity amount (minutes and type) Status  Health benefits gained
    0 Inactive  None
     Less than 150 minutes of moderate activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity) Low activity  Some
     150-300 minutes of moderate activity (or 75-150 minutes of vigorous activity) Medium activity  Substantial
     More than 300 minutes of moderate activity (or 150 minutes of vigorous activity) High activity  More than substantial


    1. Adapted from Department of Health and Human Services (2008) Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services.

    Now you have completed step one…

    Physical Acitivity RecommendationProvide your patient with a physical activity recommendation

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